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Freeman’s MacKenzie Taylor, center, and Sierra McGarity, right, battle Jasmine Hommes for the ball. (Associated Press)

Freeman repeats as State 1A girls champion

YAKIMA – Using a familiar phrase, the Freeman offense couldn’t hit water while in the process of falling out of a boat in the first half of the girls State 1A championship game on Saturday.

Not a great spot to be in with a second consecutive championship on the line at the SunDome. But the Scotties found a solution to the problem and are bringing home a second state championship trophy after a 49-32 win over Lynden Christian.

Freeman ends what many thought would be a rebuilding season with a 23-game win streak and a bright future. The Scotties lose just one senior.

The win over Lynden Christian is the second straight state-tournament win over the program that is clearly the gold standard in 1A girls play. Saturday’s second-place finish was the Lyncs’ 28th state trophy and seventh straight.

With the offense struggling – shooting 22 percent from the field in the first half – Scotties coach Ashlee Taylor-Nimri resorted to an old stand-by – defense.

Freeman (27-1) allowed one field goal in the first 10:31 of the game. After Coryn Bajema hit a 3-pointer from the left wing for that elusive field goal, Freeman answered directly with two buckets to take a 20-6 lead.

“Defense is everything,” Taylor-Nimri said. “I told the girls when we struggled yesterday to just keep playing.

“We’re not a great shooting team – especially here. But these girls work really hard together on defense.”

Perhaps more impressive was the first-half rebounding effort. Facing a front line with three starters taller than 5-foot-10, Freeman, with one starter at 5-10 (freshman Sierra McGarity) had 25 rebounds to the Lyncs’ 12. For the game Freeman won that battle 42-24.

Freeman’s defensive focus continued in the third period. The Scotties blanked the Lyncs for more than four minutes to start the period and taking a 32-14 lead along the way.

Senior MacKenzie Taylor – the coach’s younger sister – was a force for Freeman. After struggling in the semifinals she scored nine first-half points and was one of three Freeman players to grab five rebounds. She finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds was selected most valuable player for the tournament by media covering the event (teammate Alyssa Maine was chosen to the first team).

Taylor finishes her career with a third and two firsts, all three while watching her sister establish herself as an up-and-coming coach.

“I’m so proud of her and winning two championships as a coach and she’s only 23,” Taylor said. “After yesterday, when I didn’t show much leadership, I knew I had to come out and do that today.

“This is something really special.”